Tag Archives: Spotlight

A family reunion

The Lexington minuteman statue, in Lexington, Massachusetts. The statue stands on the southern point of the town green. Photograph by Leon H. Abdalian. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Patriots’ Day, a holiday unique to the State of Massachusetts, commemorates the famous skirmishes between local colonial militia and the British army in Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, on 19 April 1775. In Lexington, the day is typically celebrated with an early morning reenactment of the skirmish on the town’s green. As an avid watcher of the reenactment, my favorite part of the event comes just prior to the skirmish. Before the fighting ensues, members of the Lexington minutemen—each representing a particular individual who was present on the green that morning—gather on the common for a roll call and commence calling their names in succession. As the roll is taken, one cannot help but notice the frequency at which similar surnames are repeated. Hearing this serves as a reminder that the men who stood on the green that April morning were not only committed to defending their town, their property, and their rights, but they were also related. Continue reading A family reunion

‘True as the needle to the pole’

Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
The diarist Regina Shober Gray[1] began the Civil War with mixed feelings about the new American president; by late 1864 she had no doubts about his integrity or his importance to the nation.

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Sunday, 6 November 1864: Mr. Foote[2] gave us a good discourse on the distinction to be held between religious form & religious formalism, and illustrated his meaning by an eloquent allusion the love for our country’s flag – which is after all naught in itself but a piece of coloured bunting, our love for which in times of peace and prosperity is but a form of words, a mode of thought, used to sound the periods of a fourth of July nation.[3] But when war and peril assail its sacred folds, it becomes to us the emblem of all man holds most dear on earth – the holy emblem of all the great ideas for which true men are ready to suffer & die now, as were the martyrs of old. Continue reading ‘True as the needle to the pole’

‘His last Strike-Out’

Andy Leonard. Courtesy of Wikimedia.org

On 5 May 1871, Andy Leonard stepped up to home plate at Olympics Grounds in Washington, D.C. Few realized it at the time, but the second baseman of the Washington Olympics was about to make history.

Andrew Jackson “Andy” Leonard was born on 1 June 1846 in County Cavan, Ireland, to Andrew and Ann (Leddy) Leonard.[1] At the age of 2, Andy traveled to America with his parents to escape the Potato Famine.[2] The family settled in Newark, New Jersey, where, from a young age, Leonard began exhibiting a talent for baseball. Beginning in 1864, Andy began a five-year stint playing amateur baseball for teams in the New York metropolitan area before moving to Cincinnati.[3] In 1869, Leonard made history for the first time by joining the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first fully professional baseball team.[4] Leonard was paid $800 for his first season, which lasted from 15 March to 15 November.[5] He remained with the Red Stockings through the 1870 season. Continue reading ‘His last Strike-Out’

Heroine of the Battle Road

Ruins of the central chimney of the Hartwell house in Lincoln. Photo by Jet Lowe. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

While perusing the shelves at a local book sale several months ago, I came across a small volume that would ultimately help to broaden my understanding of a seminal event in American history. The title of the book – Heroine of the Battle Road, Mary Flint Hartwell – caught my attention and interest. As an enthusiast of Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts history, I was familiar with the phrase “Battle Road”– likely a reference to the famous march of the British army from Boston through Lexington to seize powder and arms in Concord the night of 19 April 1775.

My suspicions were confirmed when I read the subtitle:  A Drama of One Woman’s Courage on the Night of Paul Revere’s Ride in April of 1775. Having read several books on the famous skirmishes at Lexington and Concord I was curious why I had never heard of Mary Flint Hartwell.  By purchasing the book, I hoped to find out more.

Continue reading Heroine of the Battle Road

‘A very serious thing indeed!’

[Author’s note: This series, on Mrs. Gray’s reading habits, began here.]

Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
After a summer holiday in Manchester, the Grays[1] were back in Boston. The engagement of a family friend reminded Mrs. Gray of some of the undercurrents which must have swirled unnoticed about her own engagement in 1844:

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Sunday, 11 September 1864: A dull lowering day has settled into a steady rain – so we shall probably not get out to “The Pines”[2] tomorrow, as proposed, to dine – for which I am sorry. I want to go myself, and I want Sue [Shober][3] to see the place & house. I hear it is handsome and commodious enough within, to amply compensate its outward unsightliness – which is saying a good word for its accommodations certainly, as externally the house does not satisfy the eye at all. Continue reading ‘A very serious thing indeed!’

‘Unbroken primogeniture’

Margaret Tudor by Daniel Mytens. Courtesy of Wikipedia.org

An entertaining story about an American man claiming to be the rightful “King of Wales,” and a claimant as well to the throne of Great Britain, made the rounds last week after Allan V. Evans of Colorado posted a lengthy claim to the Welsh throne, noting the “injustice of history” that kept him from the British throne, to which he is heir by an “unbroken primogeniture line…”

Agnatic primogeniture dates back to early France and is known as Salic Law, where succession is obtained through kinship through the male line only. On a few occasions in France the king was succeeded by a distant male-line cousin, even when the deceased king had surviving daughters or sisters who had male children. Continue reading ‘Unbroken primogeniture’

“Algonquinization?”

A friend from my hometown of Putnam, Connecticut posed a question on Facebook about what the word “Aspinock” literally means. Putnam was incorporated in 1855; in earlier years it had been known as Aspinock, but it was later named Putnam after General Israel Putnam of the Revolutionary War. Our local historical society remains the Aspinock Historical Society after this “original” town name. Continue reading “Algonquinization?”

Boston riches

Hedwiga Regina Shober Gray diary, entries for 5-7 February 1864. R. Stanton Avery Special Collections

Certain diaries, and their authors, become short-hand for a time and place: Samuel Pepys’s diary of seventeenth-century London, for example, or Anne Frank’s diary of wartime Amsterdam. The diaries of Philip Hone and George Templeton Strong are often invoked to cover the first half of the nineteenth century in New York; for the Civil War years, readers turn to Mary Boykin (Miller) Chesnut’s Diary from Dixie (1905). Although rich in literary resources, Boston lacks such a diary for the mid-Victorian period. Boston men and women of the period wrote enduring works of fiction and non-fiction, but for this generation no Boston diarist has emerged to capture the tone of the times. Continue reading Boston riches

A pair of firsts

Bessie Coleman in 1922. Courtesy of Wikispaces.com

Recently, as I was browsing Google, I noticed their doodle for the day.[1] It was honoring Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman, who was born 26 January 1892. She was the first woman of African American and Native American descent to receive her pilot’s license, and she was also the first person of African American and Native American descent to receive an international pilot’s license. Continue reading A pair of firsts

Yalta, 1945

Courtesy of Wikimedia.org.

The seventy-second anniversary of the Yalta Conference, 4–11 February 1945, also marks the anniversary of my uncle’s death in Operation Argonaut, the Allied support mission that provided safe escort to the conference for President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill in their historic meeting with Joseph Stalin of Russia. The goal of the conference was to decide how post-war Europe would be governed, even though there was still heavy fighting in France (the Battle of the Bulge had just ended on 25 January). Hindsight reveals that many of the agreements and concessions made during the conference led to the Soviet Union’s domination of eastern Europe for forty years. Continue reading Yalta, 1945